Australia is bathed in sunlight like few other places on earth. It, among all countries, has the highest potential to generate all the electricity it needs from renewable sources, principally the sun and wind.
But the prime minister doesn’t care about clean, renewable energy in Australia. All he cares about is doing the bidding of the wealthy coal owners who bought and paid for his election win in 2013. Since he took office, Australia’s investment in clean energy projects has fallen 70%, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Government Says No to Solar Investment
Now Abbott has issued instructions to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) prohibiting it from investing in wind farms or small-scale solar projects. Opposition leaders and solar energy supporters say the government directive prohibiting CEFC from investing in rooftop solar will cripple the industry and further diminish Australia’s chances of transitioning to a clean energy economy.
“I don’t agree with the prime minister that if you just don’t have any government support for the future of renewable energy, that the renewable energy will just miraculously grow and increase in Australia,” opposition leader Bill Shorten told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He said that striking wind farms and rooftop solar from the CEFC will mean that “the only thing the CEFC can invest in is flying saucers.”
The Role of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation
The CEFC is a public fund that has invested more than $3 billion in clean energy projects and technologies. Wind and solar accounted for nearly half of CEFC’s portfolio last year. Without wind and small-scale solar, the CEFC can ostensibly only invest in what Abbott calls “new technologies,” such as bioenergy and ocean power. The fund also invests in efficiency projects, such as energy monitoring systems, industrial improvements, and refrigeration technology.
CEFC funding often goes to projects for low-income households, renters, and public housing residents. Those households often rely on the CEFC’s support to go solar, said John Grimes, the head of industry group Australian Solar Council. “To say this is about lowering the costs of power is cynical in the extreme,” Grimes told Guardian Australia. “What they’re doing with this is the precise opposite.
Think Progress reports that the directive followed failed attempts to completely dismantle the CEFC, despite broad public support for clean energy in Australia. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been clear in his desire to do away with the CEFC and a strident supporter of the country’s coal industry. “It is our policy to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation because we think that if the projects stack up economically, there’s no reason why they can’t be supported in the usual way,” Abbott told reporters in Darwin.
According to official documents, the CEFC currently expects an average lifetime investment portfolio yield of approximately 6.5%. That means its investments are expected to return the taxpayers’ money — with a profit. How the agency will now be able to generate a suitable return on its investment in light of the government’s latest directive is unclear.